Flip Flops and Foot Problems
Warm weather brings the feet out of hiding. We often shed closed, structured shoes and don sandals during the summer. Gradually, many develop problems that are related to sandals, with flip flops being the usual suspect for problems ranging from dry and cracked heels, to pain in the feet or even other regions of the body.
The foot is made of 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 120 ligaments, muscles and nerves combined. We count on our feet to hold us upright, to absorb the impact of activities, to react to uneven surfaces while helping us keep our balance, and propel us forward in the motion of walking.
The most common causes of foot pain in general are due to poor-fitting shoes, the adverse effects of high impact exercises, and due to medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and being overweight. The problem with most sandals is that this type of footwear doesn’t support the arch of the foot. With flip flops, to keep them on your feet, you must grip the shoe with your toes and this also leads to problems. Foot problems related to sandals includes pain in the arch, heel, hammer toes, corns and calluses (where they rub between the toes), and even tendinitis.
Looking beyond the feet, poorly supporting arches of the feet can lead to back pain or other orthopedic problems. So, if there is a new pain since you have started wearing sandals, then consider this as a source.
Why do the heels become so dry in the summer? Excessive friction of the shoe on the back of the heel causes a reaction with thickening of the skin as well as dryness of the skin. Unfortunately, this can lead to fissures (cracks), pain and bleeding. You can consider switching off to different shoes, and avoiding open back shoes or sandals to avoid such problems. Treat the area with lotions, use of a pumice stone and over-the-counter products to add moisture back in to the skin. If it is severe, ask your healthcare provider about treatments that use Urea, a product that helps slough off this thickened skin.
So what is recommended in regards to footwear in the summer? Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a podiatrist, suggest really being careful in choosing what you wear. Flip flops are great for the beach, in public showers (to prevent exposure to athlete’s foot and plantar’s warts), but NOT for every day wear. Look for a thick, cushioned bottom of the shoe. You should not be able to fold the sandal in half. Doing so should tell you that there is virtually no support in that shoe. A shoe made of leather is better, and has less risk of blisters. Make sure that the foot does not hang off of any side of the sandal. The sandals with a strap on the back of the foot can prevent some of the problems from having to grip the shoe with the toes. Some feel that hiking sandals or triathlete shoes provide better support . Choose wisely to avoid these pesky problems, and enjoy the summer!
References available on request